BALTIMORE (AP) The Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first AL East championship in 22 years with a 15-2 rout of Baltimore on Wednesday, bringing an appropriate conclusion to their unstoppable, two-month run.
Toronto entered the doubleheader needing only one victory to eliminate the New York Yankees and claim its first title since 1993. The suspense ended rather quickly, as Toronto built a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning before adding four unearned runs in the fifth.
The remaining innings were a mere prelude to a celebration that was more than two decades in the making. There were several hundred blue-clad Toronto fans in the small crowd that gathered for the makeup of a game washed out by rain on Tuesday.
Toronto's dugout emptied at the final out and players jumped up and down in a mass huddle between the mound and the third-base line. Because there was a second game to be played, the Blue Jays opted to put off the champagne celebration until after the nightcap. After waiting this long to toast a division title, a few hours probably wasn't going to make much of a difference.
Marcus Stroman (4-0) allowed one run and five hits over eight innings in his fourth start since returning from left knee surgery. He struck out eight and walked two.
Jose Bautista hit his 40th home run, Edwin Encarnacion delivered No. 37 and Justin Smoak also connected for Toronto. Ryan Goins had a career-high five hits to help the Blue Jays win their sixth straight.
Toronto was fourth in the AL East on the morning of July 29 with a 50-51 record, eight games behind the Yankees. But boosted by the acquisitions of David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, the Blue Jays won 42 of their next 56 games, outscoring opponents 342-200. They ended the major leagues' longest playoff drought on Sept. 26 when they clinched no worse than a wild-card berth.
In their first postseason appearance since Joe Carter's World Series-winning homer sealed their second straight title, the Blue Jays open the AL Division Series at home on Oct. 8. They are just ahead of defending Kansas City for best record in the AL, which would bring a matchup against the wild-card winner.
Stroman's exceptional pitching this month added to the surge. The right-hander has a 1.67 ERA and has beaten the Yankees twice.
A year ago, Baltimore celebrated its first AL East title since 1997. On Wednesday, the Orioles watched their successors end an even longer wait.
This was Baltimore's first game since being officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Orioles offered little resistance, and even provided more than a small measure of assistance: seven pitchers combined to issue 10 walks and Baltimore committed four errors despite coming in with the best fielding percentage in the majors.
After Miguel Gonzalez (9-12) walked three and gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings, errant throws by pitcher Jason Garcia and first baseman Chris Davis on the same play fueled a fifth-inning uprising that turned the game into a rout.
Steve Pearce homered in the seventh for Baltimore's lone run. It any hope the Orioles had of salvaging a winning season.
Blue Jays: Tulowitzki (back, shoulder) is rapidly mending and could return before the postseason, manager John Gibbons said.
Orioles: CF Adam Jones remains sidelined with back problems. He's played in one game since Sept. 20.
Thursday's series finale has been moved up to 12:05 p.m. from 7:05 because of the threat of rain. David Price (17-5, 2.34 ERA) pitches for Toronto and rookie Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.60 ERA) is on the mound for Baltimore.